The Ultimate Guideline: How to Choose a Rifle Scope

Last Updated on August 17, 2020

Without any question, the best upgrades for any rifle are an optical sight, red dot, or telescopic sight; it does not matter. Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned hunter, purchasing a new one optics is always tricky and daunting business, because of a vast sea of these glass products that manufacturers advertised with more or less incomprehensible phrases and characteristics.

How to Choose a Rifle Scope

Before choosing an aiming device for your rifle, you should answer a few basic questions to narrow your choice of scopes. Do you plan to buy the best budget scope for hunting, target shooting, or home defense? In the beginning, the rifle scopes like most everything is full of compromises.

For instance, a deer hunter and a target shooter will need different kinds of scopes. On the other hand, some specific target scopes will be fully compatible with varmint hunting.

However, different hunting types require different optics styles. Obviously, you will need one scope for hunting in an area with a lot of brush, where you need to acquire your target quickly and other completely different glasses for long distance predators preying in open plains.

Then, you should think about the extremes of the lighting conditions you are likely to use the riflescope into. If you plan to hunt at dawn or dusk the scope’s low light performance would be critical, so the larger objective lens should be your choice.

Finally, the last criteria would be financial, i.e. how much you are willing to spend. You can buy scopes ranging from cheap $50 (and probably break right away) all the way up to $4,000+ high-end scopes.

The golden rule is to keep a middle ground, spend at least half as much on a scope and mount base as you have on the rifle itself. In the next chapter, we will describe several rifle scopes features that both first-time buyers and experienced shooters should pay attention to before purchasing.


The scopes can be either a fixed or a variable magnification, where unlike fixed power; variable scopes will let you adjust the magnification range. Generally, the scopes are categorized by magnification, or sometimes-called power, on low power, medium power, and high power scopes.

Low powered optics with 1.5-6x or 2-7x magnification will be ideal for off-hand shooting close range targets and moving targets due to their wide field of view.

The medium power “all-around” scopes are perfect for hunting game at medium range as well as most paper shooting. While the classic 3-9x optics were standard equipment for most of the hunting rifles in the last century quarter, nowadays rifle-scopes come with the 4:1 zoom ratio and somewhat increased power range like 2.5-10x or 4-16x.

If you are shooting the best 308 scopes as 308 scopes are used for long range shooting in the 6-18x or 6-24x magnification range are great for target shooting and varmints and other small game.


Today body of the rifle-scope or the “central tube,” is mainly constructed from one piece aluminium and main tube diameter can differ from 1-inch, 30mm and 34 mm.

While the main tube internals are waterproof and shockproof as well, another typical feature is purging with the nitrogen or argon to prevent fogging.

How to Choose a Rifle Scope


The adjustment knobs or turrets usually are located on top and right side of the scope body and allow you to adjust the reticle in terms of windage and elevation. There are two basic types intended for different scope purposes.

Most traditional hunting rifle-scopes will require a tool for adjusting as the adjustment dials are covered with protective caps. These ballistic turrets come with adjustments valued at 1/4” or 1/8”.

On the other side, there are target knobs with exposed turrets intended for the precise adjustments with your fingers. The turrets are also available in MOA (Minute of Angle) and MRAD adjustment systems.


The selection of reticles can be utterly confusing, but the rule of thumb recommended for the first time scope buyers to choose a standard “Duplex” crosshair or a classic European  German No. 4 reticle.

It is hard to go wrong with a duplex, but if a long-range precision shooting is what you are going to be using your new scope for, consider looking at reticles with a finer crosshair or more complex types of reticles called “Christmas tree”.

Focal Plane

Over the years, the standard location of the reticle was a second focal plane (SFP). It means that the reticle does not grow and shrink with the change of magnification. The newer option is a reticle positioned in the first focal plane or FFP.

In simple words, the reticle maintains the same scale to the target size throughout the magnification range and the tactical and long-range shooters prefer it. For use in a low contrast situation like hunting during dawn and dusk, a big plus is an illuminated reticle.

Objective Lens

Here the situation is pretty straightforward, the larger the objective lens, the more light it lets in. If your preferred type of shooting means hunting in low light conditions like dawn or dusk, the larger objective lens will provide more light allowing better performance in low contrast situations.

On the flip side, the larger the objective adds more weight and bulkiness. Usually, the objective lens with a diameter over 50mm may need to be mounted higher on the rifle. That position affects scope-to-eye alignment and requires either an adjustable cheek rest or a specialized stock for comfortable shooting.

Whereas you should always try to mount a scope as low as possible without the objective bell touching the barrel, any high profile optic should be an extremely high-quality model.


A very important feature of any quality rifle-scope is the possession of an adequate eye relief that is consistent within half of an inch throughout its power range. While the short eye relief of 3 inches is fine for rim-fire almost nonexistent recoil, the standard eye relief for a powerful, center-fire hunting rifle is around four inches.

It does not need to be specially explained because certainly, you have heard the scary experiences of careless users with black eyes.

Final Words

The selection of appropriate scope for your rifle, type of shooting and your budget is crucial for enhancing your experience next time you shoot your favorite rifle. Choosing the right scope and pairing it with a firearm and premium ammo combination will help you make sure to hit your target every time.


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